Titania's radius and an upper limit on its atmosphere from the September 8, 2001 stellar occultation

T. Widemann, B. Sicardy, R. Dusser, C. Martinez, W. Beisker, E. Bredner, D. Dunham, P. Maley, E. Lellouch, J. E. Arlot, J. Berthier, F. Colas, W. B. Hubbard, R. Hill, J. Lecacheux, J. F. Lecampion, S. Pau, M. Rapaport, F. Roques, W. ThuillotC. R. Hills, A. J. Elliott, R. Miles, T. Platt, C. Cremaschini, P. Dubreuil, C. Cavadore, C. Demeautis, P. Henriquet, O. Labrevoir, G. Rau, J. F. Coliac, J. Piraux, Ch Marlot, C. Marlot, F. Gorry, C. Sire, B. Bayle, E. Simian, A. M. Blommers, J. Fulgence, C. Leyrat, C. Sauzeaud, B. Stephanus, T. Rafaelli, C. Buil, R. Delmas, V. Desnoux, C. Jasinski, A. Klotz, D. Marchais, M. Rieugnié, G. Bouderand, J. P. Cazard, C. Lambin, P. O. Pujat, F. Schwartz, P. Burlot, P. Langlais, S. Rivaud, E. Brochard, Ph Dupouy, M. Lavayssière, O. Chaptal, K. Daiffallah, C. Clarasso-Llauger, J. Aloy Doménech, M. Gabaldá-Sánchez, X. Otazu-Porter, D. Fernández, E. Masana, A. Ardanuy, R. Casas, J. A. Ros, F. Casarramona, C. Schnabel, A. Roca, C. Labordena, O. Canales-Moreno, V. Ferrer, L. Rivas, J. L. Ortiz, J. Fernández-Arozena, L. L. Martín-Rodríguez, A. Cidadão, P. Coelho, P. Figuereido, R. Gonçalves, C. Marciano, R. Nunes, P. Ré, C. Saraiva, F. Tonel, J. Clérigo, C. Oliveira, C. Reis, B. M. Ewen-Smith, S. Ward, D. Ford, J. Gonçalves, J. Porto, J. Laurindo Sobrinho, F. Teodoro de Gois, M. Joaquim, J. Afonso da Silva Mendes, E. van Ballegoij, R. Jones, H. Callender, W. Sutherland, S. Bumgarner, M. Imbert, B. Mitchell, J. Lockhart, W. Barrow, D. Cornwall, A. Arnal, G. Eleizalde, A. Valencia, V. Ladino, T. Lizardo, C. Guillén, G. Sánchez, A. Peña, S. Radaelli, J. Santiago, K. Vieira, H. Mendt, P. Rosenzweig, O. Naranjo, O. Contreras, F. Díaz, E. Guzmán, F. Moreno, L. Omar Porras, E. Recalde, M. Mascaró, C. Birnbaum, R. Cósias, E. López, E. Pallo, R. Percz, D. Pulupa, X. Simbaña, A. Yajamín, P. Rodas, H. Denzau, M. Kretlow, P. Valdés Sada, R. Hernández, A. Hernández, B. Wilson, E. Castro, J. M. Winkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


On September 8, 2001 around 2 h UT, the largest uranian moon, Titania, occulted Hipparcos star 106829 (alias SAO 164538, a V = 7.2, K0 III star). This was the first-ever observed occultation by this satellite, a rare event as Titania subtends only 0.11 arcsec on the sky. The star's unusual brightness allowed many observers, both amateurs or professionals, to monitor this unique event, providing fifty-seven occultations chords over three continents, all reported here. Selecting the best 27 occultation chords, and assuming a circular limb, we derive Titania's radius: RT = 788.4 ± 0.6 km (1 - σ error bar). This implies a density of ρ = 1.711 ± 0.005 g cm-3 using the value G M = (2.343 ± 0.006) × 1011 m3 s-2 derived by Taylor [Taylor, D.B., 1998. Astron. Astrophys. 330, 362-374]. We do not detect any significant difference between equatorial and polar radii, in the limit req - rpo = - 1.3 ± 2.1 km, in agreement with Voyager limb image retrieval during the 1986 flyby. Titania's offset with respect to the DE405 + URA027 (based on GUST86 theory) ephemeris is derived: Δ αT cos (δT) = - 108 ± 13 mas and Δ δT = - 62 ± 7 mas (ICRF J2000.0 system). Most of this offset is attributable to a Uranus' barycentric offset with respect to DE405, that we estimate to be: Δ αU cos (δU) = - 100 ± 25 mas and Δ δU = - 85 ± 25 mas at the moment of occultation. This offset is confirmed by another Titania stellar occultation observed on August 1st, 2003, which provides an offset of Δ αT cos (δT) = - 127 ± 20 mas and Δ δT = - 97 ± 13 mas for the satellite. The combined ingress and egress data do not show any significant hint for atmospheric refraction, allowing us to set surface pressure limits at the level of 10-20 nbar. More specifically, we find an upper limit of 13 nbar (1 - σ level) at 70 K and 17 nbar at 80 K, for a putative isothermal CO2 atmosphere. We also provide an upper limit of 8 nbar for a possible CH4 atmosphere, and 22 nbar for pure N2, again at the 1 - σ level. We finally constrain the stellar size using the time-resolved star disappearance and reappearance at ingress and egress. We find an angular diameter of 0.54 ± 0.03 mas (corresponding to 7.5 ± 0.4 km projected at Titania). With a distance of 170 ± 25 parsecs, this corresponds to a radius of 9.8 ± 0.2 solar radii for HIP 106829, typical of a K0 III giant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-476
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Ices
  • Occultations
  • Satellites
  • Uranus
  • atmospheres
  • dynamics
  • satellites
  • shapes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Widemann, T., Sicardy, B., Dusser, R., Martinez, C., Beisker, W., Bredner, E., Dunham, D., Maley, P., Lellouch, E., Arlot, J. E., Berthier, J., Colas, F., Hubbard, W. B., Hill, R., Lecacheux, J., Lecampion, J. F., Pau, S., Rapaport, M., Roques, F., ... Winkel, J. M. (2009). Titania's radius and an upper limit on its atmosphere from the September 8, 2001 stellar occultation. Icarus, 199(2), 458-476. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2008.09.011